Singapore has been named as the most expensive city in the world in 2015. That is certainly true in some ways. But fear not, some of the best things in life are free. Here are our suggestions for what things to do for free in Singapore and where to eat after that. As this is a food blog and not a trip advisor, our focus of course is the food and what you can eat during or after your outing. We hope you find this list of Things to do for free in Singapore & Where to Eat useful.
The places are listed in no particular order. We will add new ones from time to time.
1. The National Gallery
The former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings have been merged and renovated to form the new National Gallery that showcases art from Singapore and beyond. It is a beautiful place. Even if art is not your thing, the architecture and the building itself is reason enough to visit. Still not convinced? Then perhaps the food will. Here are the options: Aura – glamourous Italian restaurant; Violet Oon’s National Kitchen – local food in a glitzy setting, Yan – nice Chinese restaurant and Gallery Cafe – casual cafe.
2. Explore Little India
We think this is the most authentic and well-preserved ethnic enclave in Singapore. Visit the temples such as the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (above picture), browse the Indian sari shops, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Little India and when you are hungry, there are numerous places to eat. We recommend Azmi Chapati at Norris Road where you can try the freshly made chapati (see our review here) and the flavourful Chettinaad biriyani at Anjappar Restaurant on Race Course Road (see our review here).
Start your visit of Little India at the MRT Station and walk towards the northeast direction. Useful webpage on Little India at Your Singapore.
3. Visit the Changi Chapel & Museum
Escape from the crowds and travel to the far eastern end of Singapore to visit the Changi Chapel & Museum. Here you can learn some Singapore history and about our famous Changi prison. Best of all, admission is free. Car park is also free. When you are done, adjourn next door to the Bark Cafe where you can chill out in a leisurely resort-like atmosphere. Don’t forget to try their delicious chicken wings. See our review of Bark Cafe here.
4. Sports activities at East Coast Park
There are many things to do at East Coast Park. Walk, jog, roller-blade, ride a bike or if all that sounds too tiring, you can (like us) just sit back, feel the sea breeze and watch other people doing those activities. If your last visit to the East Coast Park was before 2013, we suggest you stop by as the transformations over the past few years have made it a more vibrant and nicer place.
After all that exertion, stop by Big Splash or Parkland Green where you find places like Full Pint Brewery, Pick Me Up Cafe, Atmosphere Bistro Bar and many others. If you think the sea is too yucky to swim in, then take a dip at the pool of the Sandbank restaurant. See our blog posts on Parkland Green, Big Slash, Atmosphere Bistro and Sandbank.
See National Parks’ info page on East Coast Park
5. Take a stroll and enjoy the flora in Botanic Gardens
In our opinion, this is the most beautiful public park in Singapore. It is now in the process of seeking recognition as a UNESCO Heritage site. Go take a walk and admire the numerous flora specimens there. Sometimes on weekends there are free public concerts to attend. When you are done with all that, you will of course need to find a place to eat. We have two suggestions. Botanic Gardens is really close to the Dempsey cluster of restaurants. It is walkable if the weather is good. If it is too hot, it is a three-minute taxi ride away. Click on our TOP List of Dempsey Restaurants to see the eating possibilities. Alternatively, you can try the restaurants that are located within the park itself. Our favourite there is one of Singapore’s most beautiful restaurants – the Corner House. Its food is top-notch as well. See our review here.
2015 Update – Singapore Botanic Gardens recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Info on Botanic Gardens :www.sbg.org.sg
6. Soak in the Peranakan culture with a Joo Chiat and Katong Walk
The Joo Chiat-Katong area is associated with the heritage of the Peranakan community. “Peranakan” in Singapore generally refers to people of mixed heritage descended from the 15th century immigrant Chinese traders who married local Malay/Indonesian women. Their legacy is showcased in the Joo Chiat-Katong district where intricately decorated colourful Peranakan houses remain intact; and places like Katong Antique House and Rumah Bebe offer you a chance to buy traditional Nonya outfits, beaded slippers and handicrafts. One of Singapore’s oldest Indian temples, Sri Senpaga Vinayagar, Masjid Khalid, the ornate Kuan Im Tng Temple and St Hilda’s Anglican Church reflect the mix of cultures in the area. Each of the places of worship can be an interesting stop along the Joo Chiat-Katong trail.
As one of the Singapore’s best-loved food destinations, Joo Chiat/Katong offers a wide variety of culinary choices. The famous Katong Laksa, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery and, of course, Peranakan restaurants are all found in this food paradise. Even modern cafes, like Sinpopo, tend to be a little different and interesting here. See our postings on Avenue Cafe, Sinpopo, Cheap and Good Food in Katong, and Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant.
See info page on Joo Chiat/Katong
7. Take a walk on the waterfront promenade at Singapore Sports Hub
The Singapore Sports Hub is an integrated sports complex located in the scenic Kallang Basin. It includes the National Stadium, the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the Aquatic Centre. It is also home to the Singapore Sports Museum and the Sports Hub Library. Sky terraces and a waterfront promenade are conducive for a leisurely stroll and provide excellent views of the city skyline and the Kallang riverfront. We suggest you go at dusk (around 6 pm)
8. Explore the colourful Kampong Glam
Kampong Glam was a thriving area and home to the Malay royalty even before Sir Stamford Raffles set his sights on Singapore. Today it is of one of the most colourful and hip districts in Singapore. The former palace is now the Malay Heritage Centre. Sultan Mosque is the major landmark in this historic district.
Exploring the historic and cultural enclave of Kampong Glam must be one the the top things to do for free in Singapore. Navigating the narrow lanes and alleys can be an educational and most interesting experience. Admire the architecture of the rows of conserved shophouses in vibrant colours lining Kandahar Street and the pedestrianized Bussorah Street – and peer into the shops to see what they have to offer. Check out the indie shops along Haji Lane and the textiles shops in Arab Street. Look for street art in the alley behind Aliwal Arts Centre and in front of the Malay Heritage Centre. There is plenty of food options in this area. The Singapore Islamic Restaurant is one of the oldest restaurants in Singapore. Maison Ikkoku provides air-conditioned comfort for light meals and good coffee but for some authentic local food, you can try Kampong Glam Cafe, Sari Ratu, Mamanda and Penang Chiak.
See National Heritage Board’s Kampong Glam Heritage Trails.
9. Check out Fort Canning and the National Museum
The hill on which the Fort stands was the location of the Headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and British Army Barracks. The decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 was also made there. Cross over to the other side of the road to visit the National Museum for which admission is free for Singapore residents in 2015. After all that intake of culture, you will need to eat. If the budget permits, we suggest the Flutes Restaurant within the museum itself, otherwise, stop by the YMCA which is two minutes walk away where the Y-cafe serves very reasonably priced local and western dishes or indulge in buffet meal at the YWCA’s Cafe Lodge.
See National Parks’ info page on Fort Canning Park
10. Take a seaside stroll along Punggol Promenade
The Punggol Promenade links Punggol Point Park to Coney Island (Serangoon Island). You can cycle or rollerblade down the seaside promenade. A leisurely stroll allows you to enjoy the greenery and take in the view of the Straits of Johore, Malaysia and Pulua Ubin. Punggol Point Park is where the old Punggol seafood restaurants used to be located. The lovely coastal park has a lily pond, sand-filled playground and viewing decks. Next to the park is the Gallop Stables where there is a range of horse riding activities.
There are plenty of food and beverage options at Punggol Settlement and within the grounds of the Gallop Stables. If you are feeling nostalgic, then visit the Punggol Seafood Restaurant, which has returned to the place where it first started as a shack over the sea. The Waterway Point Mall is not too far away.
See National Parks’ info page on Punggol Promenade Punggol Point Walk.
11. Enjoy the lights, forget your sorrows at Orchard Road
Does anyone remember the lyrics of an old song by Petula Clark – “Downtown”?
“When you’re alone
And life is making you lonely,
You can always go downtown…
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?”
These are our sentiments exactly. There is no better place in Singapore to look at beautiful things and watch trendy people go by than at Orchard Road. And when you are hungry, there are numerous places to eat here. Too many for us to list. You might want to see the places where we have reviewed by clicking on the “Orchard Road” location category. Eating at Orchard Road need not be expensive. We suggest you refer to our post on What to Eat at Orchard Road. We highlight three places where you get a very good meal for around $15 – French food at Saveur, Japanese ramen at Sanpoutei and healthy Japanese food at Yonehachi.
Here is the song on Youtube – enjoy!